As the homeless crisis in NYC continues to be a major issue for the de Blasio administration, state officials have turned their attention to rooting out one group of "con artists" in the city who they say have been using babies as part of a begging racket.
NBC reports that State Senator Jeffrey Klein has drafted a bill that would dust off an obscure law that makes it a misdemeanor to use children to peddle or "pick rags." Panhandling is not illegal on the streets of NYC (though it is underground in the subway tunnels), but this law would move begging with babies into the NY State Penal Law so the NYPD could take action.
"I believe we need legislation to end this nefarious practice," Klein told NBC. He called it an "outrageous situation, parents using their kids as human placards to panhandle to get money."
Last year, NBC followed at least nine of these women over a month, and became convinced that they were working in tandem (even exchanging babies a times) and weren't homeless (they followed all of them back to a building in East New York). Social service groups told them that they also believe the women aren't homeless, and are just exploiting people's better natures—they say the women repeatedly refused government help "like shelter, food and welfare because they would rather collect cash on the street."
Back in November, de Blasio said he was “very very troubled” by the report. "If it’s even possible that parents are using their babies as pawns to get people to give them donations that’s horrendous and deeply unfair to those children,” de Blasio said, vowing to put his inter-agency children’s cabinet and the NYPD on the case.
The women seemed to disappear from the streets over the winter, but turned up again with the babies this summer.
But instead of prosecuting women suspected of using babies as panhandling props, Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission says he'd prefer to see the NYPD and Administration for Children’s Services create a task force to treat it like a social issue. "For me, the first concern is whether or not these women are being coerced into doing this with their kids," Aborn said. "If they are not, and they are doing it voluntarily, we then need to approach them, and see if we can get them the kind of resources and help that will stop this."